Israel lifted its sea blockade of Lebanon on Friday, ending the country's 2-month-long isolation as the task of preventing the entry of Hezbollah weapons falls to international naval ships patrolling off-shore.
In a further boost to peace efforts, Israel also said it plans to pull the last of its troops out of the south within two weeks.
The sea blockade's end, which came a day after Israel ceased its restrictions on air travel into Lebanon, lifts a barrier that has stifled Lebanon and cost the country tens of millions of dollars as it tries to rebuild from Israel's devastating 34-day battle with the militant group Hezbollah.
"The blockade has seriously undermined the Lebanese economy and it is high time for it to end so as to allow the people to get back to their business," said Maj. Gen. Alain Pellegrini, the head of the U.N. Peacekeeping force in Lebanon, in a statement after announcing that the blockade had been lifted.
The return to Lebanon of control over its sea and skies was the latest boost in implementing a U.N.-brokered ceasefire that is nearly a month old and has so far proven surprisingly durable.
The focus now shifted to the complicated process of withdrawing Israeli troops from southern Lebanon and replacing them with Lebanese troops and U.N. Peacekeepers tasked with maintaining a border buffer zone free of Hezbollah weapons.